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Create Cornerstone Experiences

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Cornerstone experiences help bridge introductory content in a discipline with more advanced content in that discipline and can help students envision multiple future pathways where they might apply the content and skills of a discipline (Holtzman 2017).

Cornerstone experiences emphasize not only synthesis of learning across a major but also extending and deepening skills in “real world” contexts (Morley & Jamil 2021). Research indicates that enabling early college students to envision how the content and skills of a major build upon one another and might be used in future pathways increases the diversity of students within a major. 

Designing IDEAL cornerstone experiences is an important way to encourage, sustain, and leverage the benefits of a diverse population of majors. Examples include:

  • incorporating real-world applications within courses
  • inviting guests to discuss their work
  • hosting extra-curricular departmental events
  • designing a dedicated cornerstone course for first- and second-year students.

More Team Project Ideas

Steps to consider

  • Introduce students to diverse scholars and practitioners
    (Module 1: Including Diverse Representation and Module 6: Anti-Racist Pedagogy)
  • Encourage students to reflect on their learning, synthesize their learning across courses, and translate their learning and skills to outside audiences
    (Module 2: Integrating Peer-to-Peer Learning and Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Prioritize skills that are typically underdeveloped and highly valued, such as oral communication
    (Module 4: Making Success Accessible and Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Provide roadmaps and mentorship to help students navigate the major in ways responsive to their needs and interests
    (Module 4: Making Success Accessible)

Go to the IDEAL Pedagogy Canvas course to explore the learning modules referenced above.

Stanford examples and resources


Amiet, D., J. Choate, J. Hoskin & J. Dart (2021). “Exploring attitudes, beliefs and practices of academic staff towards undergraduate career development in non-vocational courses”, Higher Education Research & Development, 40:5, 885-900.

Holtzman, M. (2017). “A Cornerstone Course in Sociology: Providing Students with Theory, Methods, and Career Preparation Early in the Major”, Teaching Sociology, 46:2, 160-172.  

Morley, D.A., & M.G. Jamil (2021). “Introduction: Real World Learning—Recalibrating the Higher Education Response Towards Application to Lifelong Learning and Diverse Career Paths”, In Morley, D.A., & M.G. Jamil (eds.) (2021). Applied Pedagogies for Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan.

Senter, M.S. (2019). “Implementing a Careers and Professional Development Course for Sociology Students”, Teaching Sociology, 48:1, 28-39.